The last time London Luton Airport increased passenger capacity was in 2013 when it was increased from 9m to 18m. A source explained that this 9m increase was to avoid Secretary of State involvement in decision taking as a 10m increase in passenger capacity would trigger the SOS’s involvement.
The current plan is at the post consultation stage so the final plan could be modified to keep the expansion below 10m passengers bringing the overall capacity to around 27m passengers rather than the current proposed capacity of around 36m. This would make political sense to Councillors/London Luton Airport Ltd. as the consultation has identified environmental concerns amongst the public and campaign groups who responded. Then during the next stage of the application process, prior to decision taking, or at sometime in the future when things have quietened down, London Luton Airport Ltd/Luton Borough Council could make up the difference in capacity of 9m passengers. This means the environment looses out to the economic benefit that is claimed increased airport capacity will bring.
Also the Government document I published on this blog airports-nps-new-runway-capacity-and-infrastructure-at-airports-in-the-south-east-of-england-web-version , appears to absolve the SoS from taking these politically contentious decisions. So the above approach means a political win for all concerned except the people of Luton who think the 2013 expansion has already provided enough benefit and environmental campaign groups.